Yesterday, on the International Day of The Victims of Enforced Disappearances many statements were made, press releases written -- and like all days of the year, nothing else besides was done. Since 2005, scores of Pakistanis have become involuntary missing persons with unremarkable action taken by successive governments.
Although a Federal Task Force has been appointed under the Interior Ministry, with Additional Secretary Ather Sial as its head, it is disheartening to note that no substantial progress is being made in recovering those displaced by force. Conflicting reports of the numbers of disappeared persons, by the Human Rights Group, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, United Nations Human Rights Council further indicate the complicated nature of Pakistan’s missing people problem.
The government was urged to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday. Asserted in the HRW statement, more than 500 disappeared individuals were in the custody of security agencies. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was urged to align himself and the current government along the protection of citizen rights in Pakistan.
Many missing persons hail from nationalist parties of Balochistan and Sindh that remained opposed to ex-general Pervez Musharraf’s military rule. Since the oppressive dictatorship and even after, activists and suspected militants have been detained without charge or even convicted without a fair trial. It is unfortunately predictable, that when the objective is to suppress dissent, compliance with the law is treated as a matter of convenience, not necessity. Those who break the law do so with impunity, and those who approach the courts for recovery of the missing, may go years with no result and no relief in sight.
This endless cycle of injustice embeds itself in the fiber of communities. Resolve wanes to demand justice from leaders who repeatedly fail to deliver change.
Despite the numerous meetings held by officials, earnest speeches and hollow statements offered, administrative progress in the case of missing persons has yet to be made. The internationally observed day for missing people is rendered just another date in the calender. Loved ones of victims continue to plead for help and attention in pursuing ever-growing habeas corpus petitions filed in seemingly powerless courts.
Bodies are found dumped on roadsides and fear permeates the collective conscience. With mounting evidence of abducted and extra-judicially executed victims, one is unfortunately compelled to ask: Is anyone in government offering any hope of change at all?